Mary E. Marcy

The Value of Immorality

(March 1915)

The International Socialist Review, Vol. 15 No. 9, March 1915.
Transcribed by Matthew Siegfried.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

THE working class is kept in a condition of wage slavery through its HABITS of MORALITY. If, from childhood, in the home and in the school, in the shop or in the factory, we had not been restrained from following out our natural instincts, if we had not been steadfastly repressed and the morality of the master class carefully drilled into us and FORCED upon us in our daily CONDUCT as something desirable, we would today shake off the bonds that hold us in subjection and overthrow the profit system. It is our HABITS that keep us from revolting today – our MORAL HABITS.

Today Poverty cries to the high heavens the need of a new social order. All that stands between us and the things WE have PRODUCED, the houses we have built and do not occupy, the clothing we have made, the food we have produced, which we may not eat – all that separates us from these things, that belong to us, is our habits of inertia, INACTION, our habit of thinking and ACTING according to the morality that the employing class wants and teaches. And this moral conduct makes those who MAKE things the slaves of those who TAKE things.

If the whole working class had stepped out into society from a page in the life of our primitive ancestors, the very first thing they would do would be to satisfy their natural appetites for food, clothing, shelter and leisure. They would TAKE what they needed and the idle would be powerless to prevent them.

Of course, it is equally true that these savages would not have attained the class consciousness so necessary to their permanent control of industry, and which comes only from actual experience in modern industry, to make such a supremacy lasting.

It is the HABITS of morality, the HABIT of acting in the way the employing class calls “good” that keeps hungry men and women today from acting just as savages would act. The need for working class control of industry is here. We have only to develop a new working class HABIT OF ACTION, a working class ethic, to make an end of a system that means unemployment, starvation and poverty to the workers of the world.

Consider the morals that are taught us from the cradle to the grave; the morals that are sung in the home and Sunday School, that we copy at school, that ring from press and pulpit, that the rich and respectable are always mouthing. All are in praise of ACTION or conduct that means safety and power and property to the rich and respectable because these actions, this kind of conduct makes unresisting slaves of the working class.

Now, morals have to do with “good” actions and “bad” actions; “good” conduct and “bad” conduct. And we have been carefully driven, coaxed and coerced into acting for what is “good” for the master class and is “bad” for US. We are so moral that we crawl under the sidewalks to freeze or starve to death before empty flats or bursting groceries; we are so courageous and “patriotic” that we die on the battlefields so that our employers may have newer and bigger markets; we are so industrious that we work over- time and put our brothers out of a job; we are so economical that we produce $4,000 worth of value for the boss a year and manage to raise families on $800.

Isn’t it about time that we found a new line of CONDUCT, a new way of ACTING and LIVING that is more in harmony with OUR OWN INTERESTS?

Man’s instincts still rule the world. The majority of us will ACT, will break all the moral and legal laws in order to preserve life in spite of any false ideas of “right” and “wrong.” On this human instinct-to-live do we base our faith in the final triumph of the working class. It does not so much matter what a man THINKS, so long as his stomach, his needs and his ACTIONS are with us? What is really of importance in the class struggle is CONDUCT, how we ACT. Remember that it is OLD HABITS that keep us from revolting today. Men’s ideas soon change when they ACT with us for our mutual interests.

Here is what the Wisconsin head of the State Militia, Gen. Charles King, has to say about the working class boys in his plea for a bigger army:

“Discipline Takes Time”

“They say we can train our men in a short time if necessary. It took the union men but a few weeks to learn to drill at the time of the civil war and yet it was two years before they could learn discipline. Now it would probably take as long to teach the men to remain calm and obey orders under the fire of shrapnel and modern guns.”

Gen. King deplored the lack of home training which the American boys are receiving. He said the idea that this is a free and independent country where one man is as good as another breeds a spirit of lawlessness and thoughtlessness among the American youngsters.

“The discipline of the National guard is the thing which will be of the most benefit to these growing boys,” he said. “Discipline is the most important thing to be taught.

“Every company should be instructed to leap to obey orders. There should be an instantaneous obedience of every command. This will teach the men confidence, respect and pride.”

Every boss will tell you that obedience is a great virtue. It is a virtue in slaves only. The man who is thoroughly disciplined into HABITS of obedience is the man who starves to death in the very city where he has made ten thousand loaves of bread. Drug habits are “bad” for all men, but they are not half so fatal to working class emancipation as the moral slave HABIT of OBEDIENCE.

In your daily actions, remember that the boss wants his slaves to possess habits of discipline and obedience, national spirit and courage (to die for HIS interests).

The Revolution wants men and women with habits of INITIATIVE, men of international class solidarity, of courage to fight the class that robs us.

On January 25th the Supreme Court decided that the statutes in the states which make it a misdemeanor for an employer to require an employee to sign an agreement not to join a labor union during his employment, are unlawful, unconstitutional. They said it was not coercing the workers into remaining outside the unions, as the Kansas law declares. So that henceforth the workers are to be asked about their union affiliation by an “unbiased employer.”

Now an HONEST worker will tell the truth, spill the beans, and get his name on the Black List, while the revolutionary worker will get the job even if he has to indulge in a few prevarications. He feels himself amply justified in deceiving the Enemy.

More Undesirable Morality

The boss loves a humble worker who is economical and saves his money against a period of unemployment. The worker who respects authority, is contented and loyal (to the interests of the boss) will never become an active rebel. He is sure to work longer hours at a low wage scale.

If temperate he can live on lower wages. He is the logical lick-spittle, stool pigeon and scab. And the preachers assure him that he is “laying up treasures” for himself in Heaven, “where moth and rust do not corrupt nor thieves break through and steal.”

Beware of the man whom the boss calls a model worker. His moral conduct, his virtuous activities will prevent his ever becoming a real factor in the working class revolution.

What we need is MORE REBELLION, new habits of fighting the capitalist system, independence and initiative in organizing the workers.

The only morality, the only kind of ACTION with which the revolutionary movement is concerned is LOYALTY TO THE INTERESTS OF THE WORKING CLASS!

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Last updated on 31 May 2022